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Miami Dolphins

Dolphins-Buccaneers Preseason Game 2 Preview — What to Expect

Travis Wingfield

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An important encore showing for the quarterbacks, entire Dolphins roster awaits at the pirate ship in Tampa Bay

After a surprising start on offense, and a disappointing showing on defense, the Dolphins will look to clean things up in the second edition of Brian Flores football in Miami.

Preseason week-two brings the Dolphins north to Tampa Bay for the first road game of the Flores era. A recurring nightmare under the previous regime, this is the first opportunity to right the road woes that produced a 7-17 mark away from Hard Rock Stadium dating back to the 2016 season. Throw in the 2017 “home game” versus the Saints in London, and the 2016 playoff game in Pittsburgh and the total rises to 7-19, a .269 winning percentage.

In the midst of a quarterback battle, the expectation is for Ryan Fitzpatrick to start the game, but for Josh Rosen to take his first game snaps with the first-team offense.

With all eyes on that battle, the fact that Miami is walking wounded into this game is somewhat concealed.

Injuries/Not Expected to Play:

Dolphins:

LB Raekwon McMillan
LB Chase Allen
LB Kiko Alonso
LB Quentin Poling
LB Andrew Van Ginkel
WR Albert Wilson
WR Jakeem Grant
RB Kenyan Drake
S Reshad Jones
S Walt Aikens
S T.J. McDonald
CB Cordrea Tankersley
DL Robert Nkemdiche

Miami added veteran Terrance Smith to the roster on Sunday — he will play early and often in his Dolphins debut with the rash of linebacker injuries.

Tampa Bay:

DL Vita Vea
LB Lavonte David
S Justin Evans
WR Scotty Milner

As Coach Flores would say, we’re here to talk about the guys that are out there.

10 Things to Expect from DolphinsBucs

Stacking Consecutive Good Performances

Turn on any presser from Coach Flores and you’ll hear a message in redundancy; a message that revolves around consistency and stacking up good days consecutively. Every team has a list of standout performers from the first preseason game. The group of players that will repeat that performance in game-two dwindles significantly. Those that can strike twice are the players that will catch the eye of this coaching staff.

Jonathan Ledbetter and Nate Orchard received first-team promotions for their efforts week-one. Both players fit in with the style of defensive-line-play this staff wants. The same is true of Dewayne Hendrix — who’s sack barrage carried over from practice into the game.

Isaiah Prince had a good game sandwiched in between a bunch of bad practices. Can he rewrite a pair of rough showings against the Bucs and turn it up when the lights come on?

Jomal Wiltz and Cornell Armstrong had solid games and have really come on in camp — this position group is in urgent need of one young player rising to the occasion.

Terrill Hanks and Tre Watson had quality games and have an opportunity to nail down a spot in a walking-wounded linebacker corps.

Michael Dunn, Trenton Irwin, Myles Gaskin, and Torry McTyer shined in the preseason opener — they’ll need to take it up another level to enter roster-bubble discussion.

Can Josh Rosen Overtake the Wiley Veteran?

The plan sounds confusing on the surface, but it’s actually quite simple. Ryan Fitzpatrick is going to start, play a couple of series, then give way to Rosen. The 22-year-old will get work with the first team, then lead the second unit in another week of extended playing time.

Rosen, himself, admits that he’s behind in the mental aspect of the game. The only way for him to catch up is to see as many live bullets as possible. I’ll be watching to see how he manages compromised pockets, how he communicates with his offense, and how decisive he is going through his progressions.

This is a big night in the overall battle for opening day starter rights.

Is the Unicorn — Preston Williams — Stoppable?

Transcending cult hero, Preston Williams has reached full-fledged training camp legend status — and he’s earned it. After an impressive first two weeks, followed up by an utterly dominant showing in his preseason debut, Williams is back at it going up against Tampa Bay defensive backs.

The message for Williams has been to continue to work, and check the ego at the door. The new star is still an undrafted free agent yet to play a regular season game, and that’s why he’s running on punt-return, gunning on punts and kicks, and even working to field punts.

Flores previously mentioned that they want talented players that are prepared to challenge themselves to make the most of that natural talent. That latter — the talent — is there, now we find out if Williams is a tireless worker.

Big Night for the Offensive Line

Improvement is the expectation here. For starting rookies Michael Deiter and Shaq Calhoun, give us more in the passing game. Both players did fine with run-blocking duties, but the pair had ugly moments in pass sets.

Is Laremy Tunsil going to play? There’s no reason for him to be bothered to play, though I’d expect to see one or two series. The Jordan Mills experiment likely continues after Tunsil taps out, and that’ll be a real test of the veteran’s mettle after he was embarrasses last Thursday.

Jesse Davis and Daniel Kilgore had the best nights of the starters — albeit on just 13 snaps. As the search for another sure-fire starter among the other four not named Tunsil continues, getting consistency out of Davis at right tackle would be a big win.

What Exactly is Jerome Baker’s Role?

Baker played 15 snaps and registered five tackles, three of which came within two yards of the line-of-scrimmage. In camp, Baker was consistently showing pressure in the A-gaps, blitzing the edge, and getting heavily involved as a pass rusher. That didn’t happen once on Thursday, so what gives?

Are they hiding his actual role for the regular season, or is the experiment telling us that he’s better suited to play off the ball? Friday will provide more clues.

Minkah Fitzpatrick Bounce Back

Missing tackles is not a term synonymous with the former Bednarik and Thorpe Awards winner. Despite spilling out one run rather impressively, Fitzpatrick had a key missed tackle on a long run down to the Miami one-yard-line.

A strange Twitter exchange occurred between an account belonging to Fitzpatrick’s parents and Omar Kelly of the South Florida Sun Sentinel where Fitz’s parents claimed he’s out of position. With Reshad Jones and T.J. McDonald both missing practice, Fitzpatrick has been taking on more box duty, something he’s not a fan of doing, per his comments after Wednesday’s practice.

Fitzpatrick grew up in adverse circumstances, but he’s been nothing short of perfect every time he’s stepped on a football field. I’m excited to watch him overcome some on-field adversity, and I have zero doubt that he will.

A Closer Watch on the 21-Personnel Package

Chandler Cox’s 14 reps (21% of Miami’s offensive snaps) provides a context clue into a significant chunk of Miami’s plans on offense this year. Additionally, Mark Walton stepped in for the injured Kenyan Drake in 21 sets that did not feature a fullback, so this grouping is here to stay.

Who will back up Cox in the event of an injury? With multiple traditional Y tight ends on the roster, the answer might not be that difficult. Nick O’Leary has done it before, and Durham Smythe is more than capable of fulfilling backup fullback duties.

Mental Toughness Test

90% of the game is half-mental, right? From John Madden’s legendary proclamation, Miami will learn a lot about a few players and their mental makeup in this game.

It was a challenging debut for UDFA Cornerback Nik Needham. His response will show the type of character — or lack thereof — that this coaching staff covets so dearly.

The same is true of Jordan Mills. Mills played left tackle in the game despite getting minimal run at the spot in practice beforehand. There’s no reason to think he won’t play off the blindside once more, his response could be crucial to him keeping a job.

Charles Harris’ demotion could be the final nail. Last year, Harris admitted to battling the mental side of the game during his rookie season in 2017, but it doesn’t appear as though he’s playing any faster. This could be the final wake-up call for the former first-round pick.

Who Steps up for the Down Kenyan Drake?

Mark Walton appears to be in-line for the third tailback job, which could elevate to the second man up with news of Drake’s injury. It won’t be handed to Walton, however. Myles Gaskin and Patrick Laird had impressive debuts in the first game, and the pair are tireless workers before and after practice (regularly the last two to leave the field).

Joint-Practices Take Away from the Game Play

One of the many benefits of joint-practices is the increased live reps a team can assess. Going up against a different jersey more closely simulates game action than practicing against friendly fire, and the extra reps could change the way Miami hands out snaps on game night.

This is particularly true of the quarterback position. While Rosen needs every possible rep, perhaps Fitzpatrick’s work on Tuesday and Wednesday will give Miami more comfort in giving game action to the kid over the vet.

The Dolphins played every healthy body in the preseason opener. The competition all throughout camp has been fierce, and one of changing roles and depth charts. As the season draws closer, the Phins might start condensing the workload and begin to give more attention to the players that figure prominently into the season’s plans.

Keep an eye on the special teams, as well as the third-team offense and defense — those could provide us with an idea of which players will round out this 53-man roster.

We’ll have the most in-depth post-game report both here on the site, and on the Locked On Dolphins podcast a couple of hours after the final whistle blows on Friday night.

@WingfieldNFL

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  1. Avatar

    Edan

    August 15, 2019 at 5:47 pm

    Why does Miami always have so many injured topflight players? It’s so frustrating to watch the team start to gel with good talent, and then they’re gone. 4 Bucs are injured, 13 Dolphins. Mostly starters.

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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins Sign Tight End Michael Roberts

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins are beginning to bulk up the depth of their roster as they head into free agency.

According to Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network, the Dolphins have signed tight end Michael Roberts. The exact terms of the contract are currently unknown.

Originally a 4th-round pick by the Detroit Lions, Roberts has served mostly as a backup tight end; accumulating 146 yards on 13 receptions in 23 active games between 2017-2018.

Roberts was placed on injured-reserve towards the end of the 2018 season with a shoulder injury, and was traded to the New England Patriots for a conditional 2020 7th-round pick prior to the 2019 season. Due to medical reasons, the trade was voided a couple of days later.

The Green Bay Packers claimed Roberts off of waivers, but he was subsequently released by the Packers two days later for failing a physical. Roberts was not active for any games in 2019.

Signing Roberts doesn’t necessarily mean the Dolphins aren’t going to pursue tight ends in free agency or in the draft. Mike Gesicki is the only “lock” to make the 2020 roster, as Durham Smythe‘s blocking ability might not survive if the Dolphins find themselves in an advantageous situation at the position.

Look at this as a way for Miami to get ahead of evaluations.

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Miami Dolphins

A second Dolphins mock draft from someone who doesn’t watch football

Shawn Digity

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J.K. Dobbins 2020 NFL Draft
Image courtesy of USA Today Sports

(Locked On Dolphins) – Last week, Person A dazzled us with their blind mock draft, and now we’re back with the next entry in the series.

Person B is ready to go with their mock.

Keep in mind that all the blind mock draft contributors have little to no knowledge of the NFL.

I had all the contributors standardize their boards and the process so that everyone was on an even playing field.

They all used The Draft Network’s mock draft simulator with seven rounds, the predictive board, and had to choose the players manually.

Without further ado, here’s Person B’s mock draft.

(1) 5. Tua Tagovailoa – QB, Alabama
(1) 18. J.K. Dobbins – RB, Ohio State
(1) 26. Terrell Lewis – Edge, Alabama
(2) 39. Lloyd Cushenberry III – iOL, LSU
(2) 56. Xavier McKinney – S, Alabama
(3) 70. Rashard Lawrence – iDL, LSU
(5) 135. Chase Claypool – WR, Notre Dame
(5) 144. Justin Herron – OT, Wake Forest
(5) 147. Terrell Burgess – S, Utah
(6) 165. Lamar Jackson – CB, Nebraska
(6) 177. Jacob Breeland – TE, Oregon
(7) 223. David Reese II – LB, Florida

As I did with Person A, I reached out to Person B to get their reasoning behind the selections.

Me: “I noticed that you took Tua [Tagovailoa]. What led you to that decision with the fifth pick?”

Person B: “I knew the Dolphins wanted to get a QB, and Tua has been talked about so much that I just went with him.”

Me: “Which of your other selections did you feel particularly good about?”

Person B: “I need you to send me the link to my draft. I forgot who I picked since it took five attempts.”

[resends mock draft to Person B]

“I like my J.K. Dobbins pick. O-H-. And Rashard Lawrence. Because I figure he’s pretty good since LSU was really good this year.”

Me: “Your picks are really good. I’d put yours ahead of Person A. But it’s almost suspiciously good. Did you put your thumb on the scale somewhere along the line?”

Person B: “Well, by my 5th attempt (1 and 2: I didn’t select manual mode, 3: I didn’t pick 7 rounds from the drop-down menu, 4: I completed, but the site froze, and I lost everything), I figured out that I should probably pick from the top of the list first because if you don’t then those players just go like hotcakes.

So, I just matched up the positions the Dolphins needed to fill with the players highest on the list, and if I recognized a name or team, I would select them over someone I had never heard of.”

Me: “OK, well, we’re all out of time. Do you have any parting messages for Dolphins fans?”

Person B: “Well, I think the Dolphins are on the right track, and I hope that all of the true blue fans who have hung in with them for all these years will get to see another Super Bowl in the near future. GO FINS!”

And that wraps things up with Person B.

What are your thoughts on Person B’s mock draft? Leave a comment or tweet your thoughts at me directly on Twitter (@DIGITYnodoubt).

Tune in next time for Person C’s mock…

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Miami Dolphins

Top 5 Miami Dolphins of 2019

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins weren’t supposed to be a productive team in 2019.

A team meant to lose every game somehow ended up with a 5-11 record; simultaneously sabotaging their draft status and leaving us with a promising future at the same time.

Brian Flores, the former scout, scoured the transaction wire every day in an attempt to uncover potential “acorns” – as one former general manager infamously put it. And with a keen eye for development, his constant shuffling and retooling paid off for him.

You might think a 5-11 team wouldn’t have too many options for a Top 5 list, but the Dolphins were littered with productive “surprises”. Most have promising futures, while some have already solidified themselves as perennial starters.

Take a look at our top 5 Miami Dolphins of 2019 down below. If you’d like to see who made our list of top 5 most disappointing players of 2019, click here.

5) Davon Godchaux

After two elite seasons, we’ve come to expect nothing less out of Davon Godchaux.

Starting 16 games for the second year in a row, Godchaux has continued to ascend as one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL. If the Dolphins weren’t so busy staying out of the lime light, Godchaux would be a household name across the nation.

His 52 solo tackles were tied for the most in the NFL among interior defensive linemen. His 2 sacks, 75 total tackles and 7 QB hits are all improvements over his 2018 campaign, which already had fans clamoring to extend the young, former 5th-round pick.

Though some might point to Miami’s overall defensive rushing numbers as a sign that Godchaux (and Christian Wilkins) weren’t good at their jobs, that’s wildly misleading. Godchaux was stout in the middle of the defensive line; inadvertently tasked with absorbing double teams and giving players like Vince Biegel or Jerome Baker room to blitz.

It’s quite possible that Godchaux is lower than he should be on this list, simply because we take his performance for granted.

4) Mike Gesicki

I’m going to hold my hand up high and admit that I thought Mike Gesicki was going to be an absolute bust for the Miami Dolphins.

More-notorious for not staying on his feet than Brian Hartline, Gesicki overcame a (very) rough rookie season and turned into a reliable seam threat for Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Gesicki finished the year with 51 receptions, 570 receiving yards (an 11.2 yards-per-reception average) and five touchdowns – the first of his career. He proved to be a mismatch against linebackers; and whether he lines up in the slot or on the outside, the Dolphins are going to take advantage each time they see him 1-on-1 against an LB.

Athletic and deceptively quicker than we might realize, Gesicki honed his route running and displayed a much better catch radius than what we saw his rookie year. The image of Brent Grimes wide-eyed after Gesicki went up for a touchdown says more than a thousand words – but if nothing else, it tells us that the Miami Dolphins have a legitimate tight end.

3) Vince Biegel

Vince Biegel came to Miami as a complete afterthought.

The Dolphins traded incumbent linebacker Kiko Alonso to the New Orleans Saints in an effort to alleviate cap space in 2020. In return, they received a little-known, former 4th-round pick who was about to play for his third team in 3 years.

For all the grief we’ve given Chris Grier over his scouting, we have to give him a ton of credit for this one. Saying the Saints got fleeced is an understatement.

In 13 games (4 starts) with the Saints, Alonso recorded 31 tackles, 0 sacks, 3 tackles for a loss (TFL) and 2 QB Hits.

In 15 games (10 starts), Biegel accumulated 57 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 7 TFL, 13 QB Hits and an interception to boot.

Biegel was such a force at linebacker, that Dolphins fans forgot he was going to be a free agent this offseason and just assumed they had him for years to come. Most of us hope the Dolphins find a way to keep Biegel around at a reasonable (yet worthy) price.

The growth he, Raekwon McMillan and Jerome Baker can make with another year together could all together eliminate the need to use assets on a linebacker in the near-future. Especially when the team will get Andrew Van Ginkel back for a full, healthy season.

2) Jerome Baker

Arguably Chris Grier’s best draft pick, Jerome Baker has evolved into one of the best all-around linebackers in the league. You can consider that an overstatement, but his versatility, durability and play-making ability make him a prime candidate to burst into the national spotlight in 2020.

Baker and Eric Rowe were the only players who logged over 1,000 snaps last season (1,079 for Baker, 1,071 for Rowe).

After a rookie season that showed a ton of promise, Baker’s sophomore season ended with 124 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 5 QB hits, 2 forced fumbles, 4 passes defended and 1 interception. Versatile in coverage, as a spy, diagnosing the run, and when he blitzes, Baker may be the real Swiss-Army knife of this Dolphins’ defense.

The biggest question we now have to ask is: what do the Miami Dolphins do with Jerome Baker? He’s still two years away from free agency, but if his 2020 season is any improvement over what we’ve seen, Baker is going to command A LOT of money when he enters the final year of his rookie deal.

Don’t let Baker turn into another Olivier Vernon, Jarvis Landry or Lamar Miller. Pay the talent you successfully scouted and maintain a sense of culture and camaraderie.

Honorable Mentions:

Christian Wilkins:

Christian Wilkins came to the Miami Dolphins with a ton of charisma and a jovial personality unmatched by any top draft pick that came before him.

From the moment the 315lbs linebacker did a split after Clemson won their national championship in 2018, to the time he had Roger Goodell go up for a chest bump after he was drafted, Wilkins was a beloved figure.

But personality can only take you so far, and when the season started Wilkins needed to back up his charity work and infectious smile with the brutality necessary to win at the line of scrimmage. And boy did he live up to it.

Wilkins may not have finished with the most-gaudy numbers, but they’re still impressive nonetheless. For his rookie season, Wilkins totaled 56 tackles, 2 sacks and 2 passes defended. He’s caught every pass ever thrown to him (1), and it even resulted in a touchdown.

His 888 total snaps (between defense, special teams and the 2 he accumulated on offense) are noteworthy for a rookie defensive tackle.

The other 1st-round defensive linemen drafted in 2019 finished with:

  • Quinnen Williams (3rd-overall): 577 total snaps
  • Clelin Ferrell (4th): 716 snaps
  • Ed Oliver (9th): 572 snaps
  • Wilkins (13th): 888 snaps
  • Brian Burns (16th): 609 snaps
  • Dexter Lawrence (17th): 866 snaps
  • Jeffery Simmons (19th): 368 snaps
  • Montez Sweat (26th): 817 snaps
  • Jerry Tillery (28th): 436 snaps

The 2019 draft class was stacked on the defensive line, and yet, the Dolphins may have managed to draft the best one of the bunch midway through the round.

Nik Needham:

The Miami Dolphins signed Nik Needham as an undrafted free agent with the hope that he would provide depth for a position group that already featured plenty of expensive and starting-caliber players within it.

Instead, the Dolphins add another commodity to that list.

Competing for playing time with players like Xavien Howard, Eric Rowe, Bobby McCain, Minkah Fitzpatrick and a plethora of other roster invitees, Needham had an excellent camp, but found himself just missing the final 53-man roster.

That didn’t stop him from honing his craft and earning a promotion from the practice squad one day before the Dolphins were set to take on the Washington Redskins in Week 6.

Needham went on to start the final 11 games of the season, and ended the year with 2 interceptions, 11 passes defended, 1 forced fumble, 1 sack and 54 total tackles.

As a rookie cornerback, you’re expected to be picked on, but Needham was bullied by the refs more than he was by opposing quarterbacks. Questionable calls against Needham towards the end of the year put a slight damper on his otherwise stellar season.

Though in the eyes of some Dolphins fans, that erroneous (non-existent) pass interference penalty that was overturned on the final drive during the New York Jets loss was a blessing in disguise.

1) DeVante Parker

It may have taken slightly longer than we originally hoped, but Ryan Fitzpatrick’s aggressive style highlighted just how elite DeVante Parker can be when you just throw him the damn ball.

Previously marred by the occasional health concern and offensive schemes that didn’t cater to his skillset, Parker was deemed a “bust” by most Dolphins fans. Drafted 14th-overall in the 2014 NFL draft, Parker was expected to transcend the offense. Instead, bubble screens became the focal point for an offense that was littered with deep threat specialists (Parker, Kenny Stills and Jakeem Grant).

Parker’s recent 4-year, $40m extension is a reward not only for the production Parker put up in 2019, but for the potential Parker still has left in him.

In 16 games this past season (the first time he’s been active for 16 games his entire career), Parker caught 72 passes for 1,202 yards and 9 touchdowns. In his four years prior to 2019, Parker caught a combined 163 passes for 2,217 yards and 9 TDs.

As long as he can stay healthy, and the Dolphins don’t revert back to a scared, anemic offense, you can expect annual 1,000 yard seasons from the team’s #1 receiver.

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